It was in the classic baseball movie, The Sandlot, that Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez said, “Man, this is baseball, you gotta stop thinking! Just have fun.”
Benny’s philosophy demonstrates perfectly the approach that has allowed Brooklyn’s second baseman Vinny Siena to become a leading hitter in the New York-Penn League with a .400 batting average, ranking second with 18 hits, and fifth with a .468 on-base percentage.
A decorated UConn Huskey prior to being drafted by the Mets in the 14th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Siena’s success story is not without its adversity. After a strong start to his collegiate career, starting in all 63 games, ranking second on the team with 35 RBI and being one of two Huskies to record a batting average above .300 (.302), the Connecticut native’s momentum was stifled with a sophomore slump.
As a teammate of former Cyclone L.J. Mazzilli, who led the BIG EAST with 92 hits and ranked second in the conference with 134 total bases, the expectations were high for Siena to fill the void of his UConn teammate. “I was a freshman when L.J. was a senior so I could just go in there and not have to be the guy—he was the one who got the winning hits and stuff like that,” Siena said. “When he left, I felt like it was my place to step in and I think I just put a little too much pressure on myself and wasn’t worried about having fun. I was more worried about getting the job done and making it more of a job than a game.”
Despite these struggles during his sophomore year, Siena saw action in 52 games, batting .231, and contributing 20 runs and 25 RBI’s. The Huskey’s slugger also opened the year with a 13-game hitting streak and recorded 11 multi-hit games. While still a decorated season, Siena knew there was greater potential to be reached.
After opting out of a summer with the Cape Cod Baseball League following his sophomore season, Siena instead spent the summer with the New England Collegiate Baseball League. With less of a weight on his shoulders and a determination to break out of the rut that had engulfed his spring season, Siena took advantage of the opportunity to refine his approach and mentality toward the game.
“I was kind of out of the limelight, and was able to just to focus on baseball and not outside distractions. That focus on working hard and getting the reps in everyday and working towards the person I wanted to be paid off in the end and allowed me to just relax and play and not worry about who was behind the fence.”
The results of Siena’s efforts that summer were astounding. His junior campaign was riddled with success, as Siena finished among the national leaders with a .362 batting average, notched a team-high 54 RBIs, led The American with 64 runs scored, and finished with .424 on-base percentage. He finished with 27 multi-hit games and 18 multi-RBI games, and recorded at least one hit in 54 contests.
The crucial aspect that allowed Siena to have such a spike in performance lies in the way he handled the challenges he faced. Rather than being consumed by frustration or wallowing in it, Siena made a change—one that he is still reaping the benefits from today in his career as a Cyclone.
“I struggled my sophomore year and, you know, learning from that and being at an all time low with confidence and physically, it just motivated me to figure out who I wanted to be and work to be that person. Having a successful junior year and taking that confidence into this season is helping me out.”
Already being a NYPL leader just two weeks into his professional career, Siena relies on a strong mentality to keep his momentum moving in an efficacious direction. While the performance level of pro ball can pose a tough challenge to one’s mindset, Siena is rigid in remaining indifferent to any intimidation.
“I go up there everyday thinking I’m gonna get a hit, I’m gonna get two hits, I’m gonna get three hits—I believe that I’m gonna have success, I know that I’ve put in the work to deserve it. You just need that sort of confidence and to keep that confidence everyday instead of thinking ‘Oh I went 0-4, now I’m just gonna go downhill’—that’s an old day, I’m moving onto the next one.”
As Siena moves forward with his summer in Brooklyn, he looks to make continuous improvements and learn from any bumps he experiences along the way.
“I just want to get better, with everything.” As far as goals, Siena keeps is simple. “Try to hit the ball—try to hit the ball hard.”
-- Kaylee Pofahl for BrooklynCyclones.com